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Family carers often at the limits of their capability

Thu, 08 Sep 2011 | By NNA staff

WITTEN/HERDECKE (NNA) - Family carers are exposed to great pressures which can often bring them to the edge of burnout. In many cases they give up their own lives and receive little support. It is not unusual for carers to become more ill than those they are caring for.

Now the nursing department at Witten/Herdecke University in Germany has developed and academically underpinned a comprehensive programme on behalf of the Unfallkasse Nordrhein-Westfalen accident insurance fund which aims to maintain the health of carers. The project is headed by Professor Angelika Zegelin.         

In the pilot towns of Dortmund and Solingen, the nursing services, counselling centres, doctors' surgeries, pharmacies, city councils and churches, along with other partners involved in care, have started working together to offer carers various kinds of support.

“Many people slip into caring before they know what has happened and know nothing about the opportunities for support that exist,” says Professor Zegelin. In addition, there are often no offers of assistance tailored to the carer, she adds. “Frequently carers feel more like supplicants and experience rejection rather than support.”

As well as offering expanded information opportunities, the first objective of the working group was to ensure that all agencies who come in to contact with carers become more sensitised to the problems. Thus such agencies have been trained to make those seeking help feel appreciated as well as giving them the assistance and information they require.

Furthermore, support groups for carers are offered in the participating cities. One part of this is that help is organised to look after the cared for family member or relative while the carer is attending the group.

“The frequent problem is that the carers are often not in the position to take a bit of time out and think about themselves. They have to give up their hobbies and often even their own lives to care for a relative,” explains Professor Zegelin. “This must be taken into consideration when offering a support group, or other forms of support, and additional care for the family member must be provided while the carer is in attendance.”

In addition, a close mesh network of various opportunities for help and information has come into being, such as the organisation of drivers. There are church services that focus especially on carers, events to get information on care insurance and courses on “learning to nurse”.

Information about the programme can be found in doctors’ practices and in pharmacies, as this is mostly where first contact with carers is made.

A concept has also been developed for spa or rehabilitation treatment to help maintain the health of the carers themselves. But it has not so far been possible to implement this as financing for such a provision has not yet been secured.


Item: 110908-01EN Date: 8 September 2011

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